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Temple signs 23 to National Letters of Intent

Matt Rhule AP

(Below is Temple’s press release on the players added as part of its 2013 recruiting class.)

PHILADELPHIA (2/6/13) – The Temple University Football Program, under the leadership of first-year head coach Matt Rhule, signed 23 student-athletes to National Letters of Intent on Wednesday.

Geographically, the states best represented in the Owl class are Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Ten student-athletes list their hometowns in the Keystone state, while 10 hail from the Garden state.

Additionally, two signees call New York home; one signee comes from Virginia.

Temple’s 2013 recruiting class is ranked in the BIG EAST Conference at No. 7 by Rivals.com and No. 9 by Scout.com. The Owls’ earned the top ranking in the Mid-American Conference in 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2012.

Ten of the 19 high school signees attended the Temple Football Camp (53%). Over the past four years (2010-13), 71 percent of the signees have attended the Temple Football Camps.

Seven of the signees—Dion Dawkins, Paul Layton, Jihaad Pretlow, John Rizzo, Averee Robinson, Adrian Sullivan, and Kiser Terry— enrolled in classes in January 2013. Layton is a transfer student from the University of Albany.

The Owls begin spring practice on March 22 in preparation for BIG EAST Conference play in 2013. The squad’s annual Cherry & White spring game is slated for Saturday, April 20 at 1 p.m. at Edberg-Olson Hall. Temple returns 46 letterwinners and 15 starters, including Freshman All-American and BIG EAST Rookie of the Year Tyler Matakevich.

(Writer’s note: below the jump are the complete bios of all 23 members of Temple’s 2013 recruiting class.)

Jarred Alwan
Linebacker • Freshman • 6-1 • 215
Cherry Hill, N.J. • Camden Catholic HS

High School: Three-star prospect by Rivals.com … ranked the No. 23 player in the state of New Jersey … played for coach Gil Brooks at Camden Catholic HS … participated in the North-South Game … selected Temple over Boston College and West Virginia.

Personal: Jarred Alwan … born November 30, 1993 … parents are Narci and Gamal Alwan … plans to study risk management and actuarial science in the Fox School of Business.

Matt Barone
Offensive Line • Freshman • 6-3 • 280
McKees Rocks, Pa. • Montour HS

High School: Three-star prospect by Rivals.com … ranked 13th nationally at center … played for coach Lou Cerro at Montour HS … team went 35-6 during his prep career with a WPIAL title and a runner-up finish … participated in the 2012 Chesapeake Bowl … as a junior, team went 12-3 and advanced to the PIAA Class AAA state semifinals in 2011.

Personal: Matt Barone … born March 2, 1995 … Montour teammate Tyler Haddock is a fellow Temple signee.

Buddy Brown
Linebacker • Freshman • 6-2 • 205
Williamstown, N.J. • Williamstown HS

High School: Three-star prospect by Rivals.com … played for coach Frank Fucetola at Williamstown HS … participated in the 2012 Chesapeake Bowl … as a junior, had 87 tackles, six sacks, and four forced fumbles … participated in the North-South Game… selected Temple over more than 20 other BCS offers, including Rutgers, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Personal: Shawn Brown, Jr. … born July 13, 1994 … parents are Tiffany and Shawn Brown, Sr. … has two sisters— Destiny (21) and Brianna (16) … father is a retired police officer … loves history … Williamstown teammate Jullian Taylor is a fellow Temple signee … considering a double major in kinesiology and business.

Brian Carter
Defensive Line • Freshman • 6-4 • 280
Harrisburg, Pa. • Harrisburg HS

High School: Two-way lineman for coach Calvin Everett at Harrisburg HS … three-year starter … 2012 first-team All-Mid-Penn Conference honoree on offense … selected to participate in the Big 33 Game … selected Temple over Connecticut.

Personal: Brian Carter … born November 7, 1994 … parents are Melody Fleming and Melvin Washington … guardian is Tracey Smith.

Jim Cooper, Jr.
Placekicker/Punter • Freshman • 6-1 • 205
Linwood, N.J. • Mainland Regional HS

High School: U.S. Army All-American … three-star prospect by Rivals.com … played for coach Robert Coffey at Mainland Regional HS but kicking coach was his father, Jim Sr. … participated in the 2013 U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

Personal: James Cooper, Jr. … born October 19, 1994 … parents are Marie and James Cooper, Sr. … father was also a kicker at Temple (1983-86) under head coach Bruce Arians.

Dion Dawkins
Offensive Line • Freshman • 6-5 • 330
Rahway, N.J. • Rahway HS • Hargrave Military Academy

Mid-year student that enrolled at Temple in January 2013.

Postgraduate: Played offensive tackle for coach Troy Davis during the 2012 season … bolstered an o-line that helped the Tigers rush for more than 150 yards per game … selected Temple over Cincinnati.

High School: Played offensive and defensive tackle for coach Gary Mobley at Rahway HS … graduated in 2012 … participated in the North-South Game.

Personal: Dion Ray Dawkins … born April 26, 1994 … parents are Lisa Dawkins and Eric Dawkins.

Sharif Finch
Linebacker • Freshman • 6-4 • 210
Henrico, Va. • Henrico HS

High School: Played linebacker for coach Roger Brookes … as a senior, had 84 tackles and five sacks … as a junior, had 161 tackles and 10.5 sacks … selected Temple over Miami and East Carolina.

Personal: Sharif Finch … born October 1, 1995… parents are Wendy Finch and Greg Finch … originally from Queens, N.Y.

Artrel Foster
Defensive Back • Freshman • 6-0 • 170
Meadville, Pa. • Meadville HS

High School: Played cornerback and running back for coach Mike Feleppa at Meadville HS … four-year varsity starter … in prep career, had 4,248 all-purpose yards, including 3,249 rushing yards on 499 carries, 37 touchdowns, 130 tackles, and six interceptions … 2012 District 10 Region 5 first-team honoree on defense, second-team honoree on offense … rushed for 101 yards in 2012 season opener against Northwestern … named one of the Top 100 juniors in Pennsylvania … 2011 District 10 Region 5 first-team honoree on defense, second-team honoree on offense … rushed for more than 1,000 yards as a junior and sophomore … as a junior, had three interceptions … also a 2012 first-team All-Region honoree in basketball on defense and second-team All-Region on offense … attended the 2012 Temple Football Camp … participated in the 2012 Chesapeake Bowl … also played basketball … selected Temple over Cincinnati and Penn State.

Personal: Artrel Jonte Foster … born June 24, 1995, in Meadville, Pa. …. parents are Tammy Foster and Art Bell … has an older sister, Asia Foster (24), and a younger brother, Armoni Foster (13) … cousin is Wade Manning, former WR/CB (1979-82) for the Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos … considering a career in graphic design or athletic training.

Tyler Haddock
Defensive Line • Freshman • 6-2 • 290
Pittsburgh, Pa. • Montour HS

High School: Three-year letterwinner at defensive tackle for coach Lou Cerro at Montour HS … unanimous All-Parkway Conference selection as a two-way player … team went 35-6 during his prep career with a WPIAL title and a runner-up finish … in prep career, had 120 tackles and 15 sacks … as a junior, team went 12-3 and advanced to the PIAA Class AAA state semifinals in 2011 … totaled 100career tackles, 26 TFL, 15 sacks, and three fumble recoveries at the end of his junior season … also a three-year letterwinner in wrestling … went 60-29 … attended the 2012 Temple Football Camp … started in the 2012 Chesapeake Bowl … Honor Roll student … active with Big Brothers/Big Sisters … selected Temple over Georgia Tech and Rutgers.

Personal: Tyler James Haddock … born December 16, 1994, in Pittsburgh, Pa. … parents are Sharon Jones and John Jones (stepfather) … Montour teammate Matt Barone is a fellow Temple signee … intends to study sports management.

Todd Jeter
Defensive Back • Freshman • 6-0 • 169
Monroeville, Pa. • Gateway HS

High School: Played wide receiver and defensive back for former coach Terry Smith, now at Temple, at Gateway HS … also returned punts … 2012 All-State selection … 2012 Quad East All-Star … 2012 second-team All-Foothills Conference honoree on defense … helped the Gators to a 9-2 record in 2012 en route to a Quad East championship with a perfect 8-0 record … team advanced to the WPIAL AAAA playoffs … as a senior in 2012, had 322 receiving yards and two touchdowns while making 27 tackles and two interceptions … averaged 20 yards per catch … played for the North squad in the 2012 Chesapeake Bowl … selected for the 2013 Big 33 Game.

Personal: Todd Jeter … mother is Renee Boswell.

Leon Johnson
Offensive Line • Freshman • 6-6 • 300
Plainfield, N.J. • Bound Brook HS

High School: Two-way lineman for coach Dom Longo at Bound Brook HS … as a senior, had 20 tackles, including 15 solo stops … also played center for the Crusaders’ basketball team … selected Temple over South Florida and Ohio State.

Personal: Hubert Leon Johnson … prefers middle name … born June 4, 1995 … mother is Valerie Graves.

Paul Layton
Punter • Senior • 6-1 • 215
Burnt Hills, N.Y. • Ballston Lake HS • Albany

Transfer student from the University at Albany … enrolled at Temple in January 2013 … graduated in December 2012 … has one season of eligibility.

Honors: 2012, 2011, and 2010 first-team All-Northeast Conference honoree … 2012 College Football Performance FCS Punter Watch List … 2012 All-Northeast Conference Preseason Team … named the 2011 Great Danes’ Most Valuable Special Teams Player (team award) … named a 2011 ECAC Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) Special Team All-Star … Northeast Conference Special Teams Player of the Week (twice) … 2010 NEC Academic Honor Roll … 2009 Capital District Student Scholarship.

College: Three-year letterwinner at punter for head coach Bob Ford at the University at Albany … averaged 41.0 yards in career. 2012: Played in all 11 games at punter … averaged a league-best 40.4 yards per punt, including a program record 82-yarder vs. Wagner (11/3) … punted 46 times with 11 sailing 50-yards or longer … dropped 15 within the 20-yard line. 2011: Averaged 42.6 yards per punt, ranking 9th among the national leaders … booted 17 kicks of 50 or more yards. 2010: Averaged 40.1 yard per punt as a redshirt freshman … ranked 31st among the national leaders and third in the Northeast Conference … placed 14 punts inside the 20-yard line, including seven for touchbacks … booted 50-plus yard punts 12 times … tied 13th-longest punt in school history with 69-yarder in season finale against Monmouth … kicked a 63-yard punt at Duquesne and a 61-yarder at Maine. 2009: Redshirted. Selected Temple over Penn State and Notre Dame.

High School: Four-year letterwinner for coach Matt Shell at Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake HS … 2008 Class A first-team All-State selection by New York State Sportswriters Association as a kicker … made 68 of 69 PATs and three field goals … third on all-time Section II kicking list with 77 points … averaged 42 yards per punt … all-time leader in Section II history with 172 career kicking points … 2008 Large School Offensive Player of the Year by the Albany Times Union … first-team All-Area by Daily Gazette and Troy Record … led high school to state championship game as a quarterback … passed for 1,302 yards and 14 touchdowns … rushed for 1,186 yards and 20 TDs … BHBL won second sectional title in last three years … consensus All-Area punter as a junior, when he averaged 41 yards per attempt … earned third-team All-State honors as a quarterback … career stats: 2,861 passing yards, 34 passing TDs, 2,002 rushing yards, 28 rushing TDs … four varsity awards as basketball guard … two-time team captain … National Honor Society member … Math Honor Society member … Business Honor Society member … participated in Big Brothers.

Personal: Paul K. Layton … born November 5, 1990, in Burnt Hills, N.Y. … parents are Karen and Jim Layton … has two older sisters, Jessica (32) and Lauren (26), and an older brother, Steve (30) … all siblings were college athletes … brother played tight end at Union College … Jessica played soccer at Syracuse, and Lauren played field hockey at SUNY Oswego … graduated from Albany in December 2012 with a degree in business administration… pursuing a master’s degree in marketing.

Jihaad Pretlow
Defensive Back • Freshman • 5-11 • 185
Elizabeth, N.J. • Blair Academy

Mid-year student that enrolled at Temple in January 2013.

High School: Played running back for coach Jim Stone at Blair Academy … as a junior, rushed for 838 yards and 19 touchdowns as the Bucs went 7-0 overall … also made four interceptions as a defensive back … played two seasons with nationally ranked basketball team … selected Temple over Connecticut, Penn State, and Rutgers.

Personal: Jihaad Pretlow … born March 15, 1994 … parents are Bayyinah Pretlow and Malik Jackson … father played football at Rutgers in the early 1990s … played Pop Warner football with fellow Temple signee P.J. Walker.

Shane Rafter
Offensive Line • Freshman • 6-4 • 282
Moorestown, N.J. • Moorestown HS

High School: Played offensive and defensive tackle for coach Russ Horton … three-year letterwinner … 2012 All-County honoree on defense … helped the Quaker to the South Jersey Group 4 playoffs … as a junior, had 61 tackles and three sacks … the first player to commit to Temple in the 2013 class … participated in the 2011 National Underclassmen Combine … also a two-year letterwinner in track and ice hockey … selected Temple over Connecticut, Rutgers, and Syracuse.

Personal: Shane Rafter … born July 7, 1994 … parents are John and Barb Rafter … has a sister, Jamie.

Semaj Reed
Offensive Line • Freshman • 6-7 • 270
Philadelphia, Pa. • Haverford School

High School: Played defensive end for coach Michael Murphy at the Haverford School … also played basketball … selected Temple over Buffalo and Maryland.

Personal: Semaj Reed … mother is Jacqueline Reed … originally from Newburgh, N.Y. … interested in political science, criminal justice, and business.

John Rizzo
Fullback • Freshman • 6-1 • 221
Johnstown, Pa. • Richland HS

Mid-year student that enrolled at Temple in January 2013.

High School: Played running back for coach Brandon Bailey at Richland HS … 2012 Tribune-Democrat first-team All-Area … as a senior, rushed for 1,769 yards and 20 touchdowns … played in the East-East Game … three-time state heavyweight wrestling champion … selected Temple over Penn State, Pitt, and Georgia Tech.

Personal: John Rizzo … born February 13, 1993 … parents are Lynda and Tony Rizzo … has six siblings— Anthony (26), Marlena (24), Frank (23), Joe (21), Christina (15), and Mario (14).

Averee Robinson
Defensive Line • Freshman • 6-1 • 285
Harrisburg, Pa. • Susquehanna Township HS • Milford Academy

Mid-year student that enrolled at Temple in January 2013 … originally signed National Letter of Intent with Temple in February 2012.

Postgraduate: Three-star prospect by Rivals.com … played the 2012 season for coach Bill Chaplick at Milford Academy.

High School: Played defensive tackle for coach Joe Headen at Susquehanna Township HS … 2011 Harrisburg Patriot-News first-team Defensive All-Star … as a junior, had 46 tackles and eight sacks … also wrestled … won consecutive PIAA heavyweight wrestling championship in 2012 and 2011… attended the 2010 Temple Football Camp.

Personal: Averee Robinson … born October 17, 1993 … parents are Terry and Adrian Robinson, Sr. … older brother is former Temple Owl and three-time first-team All-MAC DE Adrian Robinson (2008-11) who just finished his rookie season with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Adrian Sullivan
Offensive Line • Freshman • 6-5 • 270
Babylon, N.Y. • Babylon HS • Worchester Academy

Mid-year student that enrolled at Temple in January 2013.

Postgraduate: Played one season for coach Tony Johnson at Worcester Academy (Mass.) … Honor Roll student.

High School: Played offensive tackle and defensive end for coach Rick Punzone at Babylon Junior-Senior HS … team went 15-6 his last two seasons … named to the 2012 Best Players on Long Island Honor Roll for basketball.

Personal: Adrian Sullivan, Jr. … parents are Sonja Stewart and the late Adrian Sullivan, Sr. … uncle is former Temple and current San Diego Chargers assistant coach Andrew Dees.

Jullian Taylor
Defensive Line • Freshman • 6-5 • 230
Glenside, Pa. • Williamstown (N.J.) HS

High School: Versatile athlete … played defensive end, tight end, and linebacker for coach Frank Fucetola at Williamstown HS … 2012 All-State, All-Mid Athletic, All-Group 5, and All-South Jersey honoree … team went a perfect 12-0 en route to the 2012 state Class 5 championship as a senior, had 60 tackles and 14 sacks … participated in the North-South Game … volunteered for Mastery Charter School’s beautification project … selected Temple over Iowa and Virginia Tech.

Personal: Jullian Patrick Taylor … born January 30, 1995, in Philadelphia, Pa. … parents are Rufus Taylor and Rolanda Brewer … has a younger brother, Jay (8), and a younger sister, Mia (8) … father is a Temple alum who was a walk-on the men’s basketball team in 1989 … Williamstown teammate Buddy Brown is a fellow Temple signee … intends to study business.

Kiser Terry
Defensive Line • Freshman • 6-3 • 260
Feasterville, Pa. • Neshaminy HS • Milford Academy

Mid-year student that enrolled at Temple in January 2013 … originally signed National Letter of Intent with Temple in February 2012.

Postgraduate: Three-star prospect by Rivals.com … played the 2012 season for coach Bill Chaplick at Milford Academy … saw action at defensive end.

High School: Three-star prospect by Rivals.com … selected to play in the 2012 Big 33 Game and the 2011 Chesapeake Bowl … team captain … played defensive end and tight end for coach Mark Schmidt at Neshaminy HS … 2011 PA Football News Honorable Mention All-State honoree … 2011 EasternPAFootball.com Honorable Mention All-State selection … 2011 Philadelphia Inquirer first-team All-Southeastern PA pick … 2011 Suburban One first-team All-Conference honoree … 2011 Neshaminy Mr. Lineman coaches’ award recipient … 2010 second-team All-Conference selection … Redskins went 12-2 in 2010, his junior season, and advanced to the District 1 AAAA championship game … as a junior, had 47 tackles, including 40 solo stops, a team-best six sacks, and three forced fumbles.

Personal: Kiser Terry … born August 11, 1993 … mother is Betty Terry … older brother Terrell Channell lettered in football at Temple in 2006.

Jahad Thomas
Running Back • Freshman • 5-10 • 170
Elizabeth, N.J. • Elizabeth HS

High School: Ranked the fourth-best running back in the state of New Jersey … all-purpose back for coach John Quinn at Elizabeth HS … helped team to the 2012 state title … participated in the North-South Game … captained two sports as a junior … starter on the nationally ranked basketball team.

Personal: Jahad Thomas … born November 6, 1995 … parents are Connie Thomas and Eddie Roberts … Elizabeth HS teammate P.J. Walker is a fellow Temple signee.

P.J. Walker
Quarterback • Freshman • 6-1 • 200
Elizabeth, N.J. • Elizabeth HS

High School: Dual-threat quarterback for coach John Quinn at Elizabeth HS … 2012 Newark-Star Ledger State Offensive Player of the Year … helped team to the 2012 state title … as a junior, one of the state’s most accurate passers … went 120-of-189 (63.5 percent) for 2,168 yards and 18 touchdowns … in the NJSIAA sectional final against Piscataway, threw for 257 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 199 yards and a touchdown … four-year starter … participated in the North-South Game … also played basketball … team reached the 2012 Group 4 final … selected Temple over Connecticut and Rutgers.

Personal: Phillip Walker, Jr. … born February 26, 1995… parents are Tamicha Drake and Phillip Walker, Sr. … Elizabeth HS teammate Jahad Thomas is a fellow Temple signee … played Pop Warner football with fellow Temple signee Jihaad Pretlow.

Zaire Williams
Running Back • Freshman • 5-11 • 188
Sicklerville, N.J. • Timber Creek HS

High School: Three-star prospect by Rivals.com … ranked by Rivals as the No. 36 overall running back and New Jersey’s 16th-best player overall … played for coach Rob Hinson … participated in the 2012 Chesapeake Bowl … selected Temple over West Virginia.

Personal: Zaire Williams … born October 25, 1994 … father is Bruce Williams.

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NCAA approves new roughing the passer penalty for hits below knees

Tennessee v Florida

Hitting a quarterback below the knees in passing situations will result in a 15-yard penalty for roughing the passer according to a new rule approved by the NCAA’s Playing Rules Oversight Panel. The new rule will go into effect this fall around the country.

One of the first questions that may come to mind is just what qualifies as a passing situation in a game where passing has become more and more frequent? Will every pass play by considered a passing situation, or just plays that come on third and long or perhaps even second and long? Fortunately the NCAA laid out the basics for when this penalty will come into play.

According to the NCAA, “the rule specifically covers a scenario in which a quarterback is in a passing posture with one or both feet on the ground.” When in this situation, no defensive player rushing unabated can hit the quarterback at the knees or below the knees. In addition, a defensive player may not roll or lunge and forcibly hit the quarterback in the knee or below. So a defender already on the ground may not roll into the quarterback.

There are exceptions to the rule though. A quarterback who takes off to run, no matter where located on the field, is no longer considered in a passing situation so he would be vulnerable. If a defender is already engaging in wrapping up the quarterback for a tackle, the passing situation is considered over. Any defender blocked into a passer is also in the clear as far as a penalty is concerned, but this means officials will have to keep a close eye on the entire play to determine if a player hitting below the knee was pushed into the passer or if the dive or lunge was initiated by the defender.

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Florida State expresses disappointment in New York Times story

Florida State Spring Game

Florida State University issued a statement in response to a story published by the New York Times on Wednesday. The university expressed disappointment in the story that profiles the timeline of the response taken by the university and Tallahassee police in an investigation for an alleged sexual assault committed by quarterback Jameis Winston.

According to the statement released by Florida State, many of the responses provided during the process of writing the story were not included in the final copy that was released. Among the many points made by the university in an outline of issues with the story include is a statement that Florida State does not tolerate sexual assault, state and federal privacy laws restrict what the university can do on certain student matters, and the university must balance the duty to investigate with the general welfare of the alleged victim. By leaving out information Florida State feels were justified to include in telling what it believes to be the full story, the New York Times has done a disservice to its readers and the Florida State community, the statement says.

“Like all other colleges and universities, FSU is faced with a balancing act when following the “Dear Colleague” letter,” the statement by Florida State opens.

“Given the inherent tension within the “Dear Colleague” letter, FSU seeks to empower victims by giving great weight to their wishes when it comes to counseling, academic accommodations and supporting them through criminal or university proceedings,” the statement continues. “In a great number of cases, the victims make it quite clear that they don’t want to file a police report or pursue a Code of Conduct process.”

You can read the full statement released by Florida State as well as the full outline of points the university feels were missing from the New York Times story.

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‘Cuse confirms Terrel Hunt will remain QB starter

Terrel Hunt AP

Not that there was much mystery involved to begin with, but the question marks surrounding the quarterback position at Syracuse have been answered.

As expected, offensive coordinator George McDonald has confirmed to ESPN.com that Terrell Hunt will remain the Orange’s man under center.  While Hunt ended last season in that position, the competition was open once again this spring.

McDonald said Hunt’s growth throughout the spring locked down the job once again for the player.

“He’s had a really good spring,” McDonald said of the incumbent. “He’s doing a lot of things he wasn’t able to do last spring. For him, the game that made him a lot more comfortable was the Minnesota game. He’s really built off that game. He’s playing at a different level this spring.”

Hunt ultimately started the final 10 games of the 2013 season after Oklahoma transfer Drew Allen, who started the first three, was benched for poor performance.  In addition to throwing for over 1,600 yards and 10 touchdowns, Hunt was also second on the team with 500 yards rushing and seven touchdowns on the ground.

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LSU, ‘Cuse officially set future home-and-home

1965 Sugar Bowl

After a month or more of speculation, the long wait for official word on a future series between programs from the ACC and SEC is finally, thankfully over.

Syracuse confirmed via a release Wednesday that it will play a future home-and-home series against LSU.  The Orange will host the Tigers Sept. 26, 2015, in the Carrier Dome, while ‘Cuse gets the “pleasure” of traveling to Death Valley to face the Bayou Bengals Sept. 9, 2017.

“We are thrilled to enter into this home-and-home agreement with a premiere program like LSU. Student-athletes come to Syracuse to play on the biggest stage possible, and this gives our coaches and young men the chance to battle one of the standard-bearers of the SEC on our home turf,” said athletic director Dr. Daryl Gross in a statement. “It is a complicated process to arrange games of this magnitude, and I couldn’t be happier for our fans and for all who will be involved in this upcoming series.”

The two football programs have never met during the regular season, but have squared off twice in the postseason. The first meeting came in the 1965 Sugar Bowl (LSU, 13-10) and the second and last came in the 1989 Hall of Fame Bowl (Syracuse, 23-10).

And, while I’m here, Syracuse introduced some new uniforms this afternoon as well.  So, instead of wasting any additional space on uniform news, here they are. Enjoy:

Syracuse Unis

(Program photo credit: Allstate Sugar Bowl)

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SMU’s two-way threat, Kevin Pope, granted medical waiver

Central Florida v SMU

After going both ways for the latter portion of the 2013 season, Kevin Pope will get the opportunity for a repeat in 2014.

SMU announced in a press release that the running back/linebacker “has been granted a medical hardship waiver by the American Athletic Conference and will return to the field in 2014.”  Pope played in just one game in 2010 before an injury that originated in high school not only sidelined him for the remainder of that season but for all of 2011 as well.

That one game Pope played in 2010 came as a running back.  He was shifted to linebacker and played in 24 games at the position the past two seasons, including 11 starts in 2013.  The final two games of last season, however, Pope saw action as both a linebacker and running back, carrying the ball 11 times for 89 yards.  He also caught five passes for 61 yards out of the backfield.

Exiting spring practice this year, Pope was listed as the Mustangs’ No. 1 running back.

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Report: four-star 2013 DB bolts Buckeyes

Jayme Thompson

Kentucky was on the wrong end of a transfer earlier today, but the Wildcats could become the beneficiaries of another school’s loss at some point in the not-too-distant future.

While the school has yet to officially announce the move, defensive back Jayme Thompson is expected to transfer out of the Buckeyes football program.  No reason for the impending departure was given.

According to Rivals.com, Thompson will visit the UK spring game, which will be played Sat., April 26.  In addition to the Wildcats, Louisville, Penn State, Rutgers and West Virginia — Thompson verbally committed to WVU before flipping to OSU — are reportedly potential destinations as well.

The Toledo, OH, high schooler was a four-star member of OSU’s 2013 recruiting class, rated as the No. 29 safety in the country and the No. 11 player at any position in the state of Ohio.  He missed all of the 2013 season due to a broken ankle, but had participated in spring practice this year.

(Photo credit: Ohio State athletics)

UPDATED 2:46 p.m. ET: Tidying up a couple of loose ends, Ohio State has confirmed that Thompson has been granted a released from his scholarship.  Additionally, in a statement to Rivals.com, Thompson’s father acknowledged his son’s departure.

“We would like to thank The Ohio State University for the opportunities they have given my son, Jayme, and our family,” the statement from Deon Thompson began. “Jayme is leaving the program in good academic standing, and we look forward to the next chapter of Jayme’s education and football playing career.”

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Tweet leaves TCU as latest to see QB transfer

TCU Football Media Day head shots

Quarterbacks across the country are taking cabin fever to the extreme and fleeing their football homes in relatively large numbers this Wednesday afternoon.

The latest to be hit by attrition at the position is apparently TCU, with Tyler Matthews seeming to confirm via a tweet posted to his personal Twitter account that he has decided to pack up leave the Horned Frogs football program.  It should be noted, though, that the school has not yet addressed, at least publicly, Matthews’ status for the upcoming season and beyond.

It’s unknown why Matthews would decide to leave the program as the sophomore was engaged in a competitive spring battle with last year’s part-time starter, Trevone Boykin, for the starting job.

Despite Boykin’s struggles — when he was the starter — last season that led to the competition this spring, Matthews rarely saw the field in 2013 as a redshirt freshman and did not attempt a pass.  Prior to redshirting as a true freshman in 2012, Matthews was a four-star member of that year’s class and was the No. 6 pro-style quarterback in the country.  He was the No. 1 prospect at any position in the state of Kansas that year, and heading back to his home state is certainly not out of the realm of possibility.

Interestingly, TCU is already a rumored landing spot for Matt Joeckel, who it was announced earlier today was transferring from Texas A&M.

(Tip O’ the Cap: frogsowar.com)

(Photo credit: TCU athletics)

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Losing USC QB battle won’t lead to Max Browne transfer

Max Browne AP

(Writer’s note: For now at least.)

Late last night, Steve Sarkisian did what’s long been expected and officially tapped the incumbent, Cody Kessler, as USC’s starting quarterback.

Because his prime competition for the job, Max Browne was a high-profile recruit — he was Rivals.com’s No. 1 quarterback in the Class of 2013 — who could be in for a second consecutive season of inactivity, the “T” word came front and center when it came to Browne’s future with the Trojans.  According to the player, however, that’s not an option for him — ever.

I’m staying put,” Browne said when asked about a potential transfer. “I’m here for good.”

Sarkisian attempted to soften the sting of losing the battle, telling the media “I think Max is going to be a star.”

That’s all well and good in the here and now, but the future doesn’t look very promising for Browne at USC, at least as far as seeing the playing field goes.  Including 2014, Kessler still has two years of eligibility remaining.  As a redshirt sophomore last season and tasked with the responsibility of replacing longtime starter Matt Barkley, Kessler performed exceptionally well as he completed just over 65 percent of his passes for 20 touchdowns against just seven interceptions.

Another factor that could lead to an about-face from Browne?  Ricky Town, the top quarterback in the Class of 2014, verbally committed to play for the Trojans this past January and is expected to be a part of USC’s recruiting class next year.

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Another SEC QB transfer as Jalen Whitlow leaves Kentucky

Jalen Whitlow AP

‘Tis the season for quarterbacks fleeing SEC football programs en masse, apparently.

Shortly after Texas A&M confirmed that Matt Joeckel, a potential starter in 2014, was leaving the Aggies, Kentucky announced that Jalen Whitlow, a bonafide starter in 2013, has decided to do the same when it comes to the Wildcats.  Whitlow started 15 games the past two seasons, including eight in 2013, and entered spring practice, at least as far as the media and the fans were concerned, as UK’s unquestioned starter under center.

However, at a press conference shortly after the surprising announcement of Whitlow’s impending departure, head coach Mark Stoops confirmed that the decision was made after the player was talked to about changing positions.  Specifically, the coaching staff asked Whitlow to move to wide receiver.  The quarterback declined, instead opting to move on elsewhere for his remaining two seasons of eligibility.

We respect Jalen and his decision as we want the best for him,” Stoops said in a statement released prior to his talk with the media. “I thank Jalen for his contributions to the team. I want everyone to understand how hard he has worked and the effort he has given since our staff has been here.”

The past two seasons, Whitlow has thrown for 1,831 yards and 10 touchdowns.  He also contributed nine touchdowns on the ground.

Coming out of high school in Prattville, Ala., Whitlow was rated as a three-star recruit and listed as an “athlete” by Rivals.com.

I appreciate the University of Kentucky and what the coaching staff and administration have done for me,” the player said in his statement. “I also thank the community and the fan support I have received here. I wish the coaches and my teammates the best of luck.”

With Whitlow no longer a part of the equation, UK’s group at the position will include the veteran but oft-injured Maxwell Smith; Patrick Towles and Drew Barker, four-star members of UK’s 2012 and 2014 recruiting classes, respectively; and redshirt freshman Reece Phillips.

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QB Matt Joeckel transferring from A&M

UTEP v Texas A&M

And then there were two.

What started as a three-man competition to replace Johnny Manziel has officially been whittled by one, with Texas A&M announcing Wednesday morning that Matt Joeckel has decided to transfer from the Aggies.  The school stated via Twitter that head coach Kevin Sumlinand A&M Football wish Matt Joeckel all the best next season, Joeckel graduated & will pursue his final season at another school.”

Matt is a great Aggie and he has decided to transfer,” Sumlin said in a statement subsequently released by the school. “We wish him all the best.”

As Joeckel has already graduated from A&M — earned a business degree last December — he’ll be permitted to play immediately at an FBS program in 2014 if that’s the path he chooses for his final year of collegiate eligibility.

Joeckel, the brother of former A&M All-American and 2013 No.2 overall NFL draft pick Luke Joeckel, served as Manziel’s primary backup in 2013 and entered spring practice with a significant edge in experience over his two competitors.  A three-star member of the Aggies’ 2010 recruiting class, Joeckel was the No. 29 pro-style quarterback in that class coming out of high school in Arlington, Tex.

“I  have loved my four and a half years at Texas A&M,” Joeckel said. “I am glad I had the opportunity to play for Coach Sumlin, Coach (Jake) Spavital and the rest of the coaches. I am proud to have my degree from the Mays Business School and I’ll always consider myself a member of the Aggie family.”

With Joeckel out of the mix, the onus for replacing Manziel falls squarely on the shoulders of Kenny Hill and/or Kyle Allen.

Hill showed flashes last season that lead some to believe he could, like Manziel two years ago, surprise observers as spring practice commenced.  Also like pre-Heisman Manziel, unfortunately, Hill has an off-field legal issue with which to deal.  Late last month, Hill was arrested and charged with public intoxication, resulting in an indefinite suspension from the football program.

Allen comes into the battle with the high-profile pedigree, a five-star member of the Aggies’ 2014 recruiting class rated as the No. 1 pro-style quarterback in the country and the No. 7 player at any position.  An early enrollee who is participating in spring practice, Allen has been impressive in his own right.  Add in Joeckel’s transfer and Hill’s arrest, and Allen could be in position to take over the A&M offense as a true freshman in 2014.

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40th postseason game, Orlando’s Cure Bowl, officially announced

Cure Bowl Logo

Yippie!?!?

Following up on the reports from Tuesday, the American Athletic Conference and the Orlando Sports Foundation announced the creation of what’s being called the Cure Bowl.  The AAC will face a member of the Sun Belt Conference in December 2015 at the newly-renovated Citrus Bowl.

One of the few redeeming qualities for yet another game added to an already bloated postseason slate is that this one will have strong ties to charitable organizations working to find a cure for breast cancer.

We are pleased to partner with the Cure Bowl and commend the organizers for their dedication and commitment to such a worthy cause while also supporting youth organizations in Central Florida,” said AAC commissioner Mike Aresco in a statement. “By adding the Cure Bowl to our already strong bowl lineup, we continue to meet our goal of providing a competitive game and a desirable destination for our student-athletes, coaches and fans.”

Barring any contraction between now and then — highly unlikely, unfortunately — the Cure Bowl will bring the total number of FBS bowl games to a whopping 40.  In 1995, just 18 bowl games were played after that season.  Or, to put it into even more perspective, there’s this little historical nugget from al.com:

The number of bowl games increased from six to 11 between 1955 and 1975. Then they went from 11 to 18 from 1975 to 1995. During the 16-year Bowl Championship Series era, the amount of bowls increased from 20 to 35.

There were 35 bowls played in the 2013-2014 postseason cycle, with 79 teams reaching the requisite six wins for bowl eligibility.  There will be four additional bowl games added for the 2014 season, bringing the total to 39 the year prior to the Cure Bowl’s arrival.

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Prosecutor decries police handling of Winston rape probe

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images Getty Images

William Meggs, the Florida state’s attorney charged with handling the investigation into the allegations of rape made against Jameis Winston last year, did not hide the fact that, in his opinion, the initial investigation was not handled properly by the Tallahassee Police Department.

In a New York Times “expose” published Wednesday morning, Meggs was on the offensive yet again.  Meggs assailed the TPD probe on multiple fronts, from failing to readily identify a witness — who also happened to be one of Winston’s teammates — to apparent nonchalance when it came to a crucial tip involving a taxi cab to its handling of Winston in the early stages of the investigation.

On the night in question, in December of 2012, Winston and at least two of his teammates, Chris Casher and Ronald Darby, were at a Tallahassee bar named Potbelly’s.  It was there that the three met up with the alleged victim, had a few drinks and then took off in a taxi with the woman.  At some point a few hours, a 911 call was made, alleging she was raped.

It was the investigation — or lack thereof — that has Meggs speaking out more than four months after his office decided against filing charges against Winston.  And, in somewhat of an unexpected turn, Meggs made his strongest comments to date on the case:

– On the TPD failing to find Casher, who allegedly videotaped a portion of the encounter, in a timely manner, possibly leading to the loss of key evidence:

In the recent interview, Mr. Meggs said he was surprised that the police had not quickly found Mr. Casher. “How long does it take to identify a freshman football player — about 10, 15, 16 seconds?” he asked, adding, “Anybody that looked at this case would say you get a report at 2 in the morning, by noon you could have had the defendant identified and talked to.”

Casher allegedly deleted the video “a couple of days” after Winston’s encounter with the alleged victim, well before he was ever contacted and interviewed by police.

– One of the three football players used an FSU ID to get a discounted fare for the taxi.  TPD investigators failed to find the driver of the cab, as well as failed to secure videotape from myriad security cameras positioned in and around the Tallahassee bar that could have shed some light on the incident:

“I am convinced that we would have identified the cabdriver that night and had an interview with him,” Mr. Meggs said. “Don’t know what we would have learned, but we would have learned the truth. I am also convinced that had it been done properly, we would have had the video from Potbelly’s.

By the time the prosecutor [Meggs] asked for that video, the tape had long since been recycled.

– The TPD’s initial encounter with Winston regarding the allegations came via the telephone, which allowed the player the opportunity to “lawyer up” before he could be questioned:

Mr. Meggs said he was shocked that the police investigator’s first attempt to contact Mr. Winston was by telephone. “He says, ‘I have baseball practice, I’ll get with you later,’” Mr. Meggs said. That call allowed Mr. Winston to hire a lawyer who told him not to talk.

“It’s insane to call a suspect on the phone,” Mr. Meggs said. “First off, you don’t know who you are talking to.” He said he would have gone straight to the baseball field. “If you walked up to Jameis Winston in the middle of baseball practice and said, ‘Come here, son, I need to talk to you,’ he would have said, ‘Yes, sir.’”

In summation, Meggs stated that the TPD “just missed all the basic stuff that you are supposed to do” during the course of an investigation of this type, although he stopped well short of accusing the department in general and the investigating officer specifically of willful misconduct because of Winston’s status as a Seminoles football player. Meggs was also quick to caution, as the Times wrote, that “a better investigation might have yielded the same result,” which was no charges being filed against Winston.

In mid-November, after reports of the probe had surfaced publicly, Meggs vowed that his office would get to the bottom of the allegations, a report of which had only recently been forwarded to him by the TPD — 11 months after the alleged rape and only after an open records request from news organizations seemingly forced the department’s hand.  Three weeks later in a press conference announcing no charges would be filed against Winston, Meggs said his investigation didn’t find enough evidence to prove that the sexual encounter between the player and the alleged victim was not consensual.

A short time later, the attorney for Winston’s accuser called for an investigation into the TPD’s handling of the case.  The feds have also reportedly gotten involved on the university side of the situation, with reports coming to light earlier this month that the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has launched its own investigation into FSU’s handling of the case.

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Trojan Man: Cody Kessler named starting QB at USC

Cody Kessler

USC head coach Steve Sarkisian officially named Cody Kessler as the starting quarterback for the Trojans in 2014. The announcement was made via Twitter, although it is hardly a surprise.

The decision was probably not a hard one to make for the new USC head coach. Kessler played in all 14 games for USC last season (USC played a 13th regular season game at Hawaii, thus allowing them to play 14 games without playing in a conference championship game) and he led the Trojans with 2,967 passing yards and 20 touchdowns to just seven interceptions.

Kessler was the perceived favorite for the starting job this fall anyway (he appears on the cover of USC’s spring prospectus), but once Max Wittek left the program it seemed like just a matter of time before the decision became official. Kessler was going up against redshirt freshman Max Browne this spring and USC will add one of the top quarterback recruits in the Class of 2015 with Ricky Town, a five-star quarterback according to Rivals.

USC’s spring game will be played this Saturday, April 19.

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Report: Former Duke QB to visit Fresno State

Brandon Connette

Former Duke quarterback Brandon Connette is looking to move closer to his family back home for his final year of eligibility. Fresno State needs a starting quarterback. The two could be a match just waiting to seal the deal according to a report.

Connette will visit Fresno State next week and is expected to make a transfer official as soon as possible, according to Jeremy Fowler of CBSSports.com. Connette will be eligible to play right away this fall if he transfers because he is scheduled to graduate from Duke this spring. After scoring 27 touchdowns for the Blue Devils in a season that ended with an appearance in the ACC Football Championship Game and Chick-fil-A Bowl against Texas A&M, Connette is simply looking to get closer to home after his mother underwent surgery in December to remove a brain tumor.

As far as football is concerned, Connette could benefit from getting a chance to play in Fresno State’s system as well. He may not be the next Derek Carr, who leaves Fresno State having rewritten the record book during his collegiate career, but a chance to open things up in the passing game in Fresno State’s offense could help improve in the passing game.

Connette appeared in 13 games for the Duke Blue Devils in 2013. He completed 62.1 percent of his passes for 1,212 yards and 13 touchdowns. He was intercepted six times but also was a solid contributor on the ground with 337 rushing yards and 14 rushing touchdowns. He could bring some of that to Fresno State as well. Fresno State has just five offensive starters returning in 2014. Connette would not be a complete plug for the Bulldogs, but he would be a solid addition to an offense looking to replace big players at key positions on offense.

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Louisville relaxes depth concerns with addition of safety James Sample

Bobby Petrino

Louisville is gearing up for the first season in program history as a member of the ACC. They will do so with a new face in the defensive backfield looking to lock down on opposing receivers. On Tuesday Louisville confirmed the addition of safety James Sample, previously of Washington.

Sample will come to Louisville and be eligible to play right away because he played at the junior college level in 2013. Sample played for Washington in 2011 and 2012 before leaving the program after two injury-riddled seasons. He was a four-star prospect when he was recruited by Steve Sarkisian at Washington, but things just never quite seemed to work out with the Huskies. At Louisville he hopes to be able to stay on the field and make an impact right away. New Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino is happy to have Sample aboard.

“James is an outstanding football player who will help us fill a void on our football team,” Petrino said in a statement released by the university. “He has outstanding size at the safety position and will add immediate depth to this position on our football team.”

Louisville had a need to get deeper at safety, and Sample should help with that need. The Cardinals lose Hakeem Smith to graduation and Calvin Pryor declared early for the 2014 NFL Draft. Smith holds the school record for career starts and Pryor started 32 games, so starting experience in the middle of the defensive backfield is raw for Louisville. The Cardinals have some other options to work with as well. Gerod Holliman is a potential starter with veteran experience behind him. Redshirt freshman Chucky Williams is also expected to be competing for a starting job this fall. The Cardinals lost Terrence Ross to a knee injury last fall, but he could work his way back into the mix as well if healthy.

Sample will have two years of eligibility remaining at Louisville.

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